In an effort to get to know our neighbors and introduce our members to the local businesses around us, we periodically conduct interviews with business owners in our community. We sat down with Stratum Fitness owner, Blake Bender, to discuss his path to entrepreneurship and all things exercise. If you’re looking for a functional fitness program that’s tailored specifically for you, this is the place! Read on to learn more.
Stratum Fitness is not your average gym. Located in Solana Beach, directly across the street from Santa Fe Christian School, Stratum’s focus is on “life enhancement,” not just athletic enhancement. Their perspective centers around the idea that being fit means feeling better and having a greater quality of life, which in turn, affects everything you do, not just what you do in the gym. Their programming consists of strength training, CrossFit, bodybuilding, and endurance training and they cater each member’s program to their individual needs, so that people achieve results that help them live happier, healthier lives.
I am one of the owners of Stratum Fitness, which I opened in 2012 with my business partner. We grew up together in Northern California and both had a passion for fitness and competitive athletics, so it was sort of natural for us to continue that.
Surprisingly, we’ve been in the same building for all 6 years! We initially only had a portion of it, but expanded after a couple of years, doubled our square footage, and built out what we have today.
We specialize in functional fitness and have two main goals. First and foremost is being authentic to ourselves and our clients to make sure that they are improving in what they’re doing and also helping them lead healthy lives. We really want to help people maintain their physical freedom and have confidence in their bodies and their abilities.
Beyond that, we focus on performance goals—whether that’s strength or motivation, or just fulfilling an accountability role or providing a sense of community for people to help them stay on track.
Loosely, what we do can be interpreted as CrossFit, but that’s not the primary focus. We try to create a more holistic fitness regimen, which typically includes a combination of things like intervals, mechanics, and some CrossFit techniques. We maintain small classes and work one-on-one with our members to ensure that we tailor a program specifically to them and whatever their goals might be. We also want to ensure that they are receiving proper coaching every time they’re here and tweak their program when we need to.
The community here in North County is naturally very health conscious, so we feel like we are a really useful and naturally complementary addition to the community. We also feel like we’re providing value to people because of it.
I’ve always been very athletic and interested in fitness, so it’s something that’s a big part of my life. I’m also very disciplined and dedicated when it comes to achieving a goal, so it sort of comes naturally as I’m a very positive and confident person. And I really enjoy sharing that with other people so that they can thrive and have confidence in themselves.
Nothing formal, but we do hold in-house competitions periodically. They are typically a half day, with teams of 4, both members and others from the community that we invite. The competition is a lot of fun and creates camaraderie among people, which often transitions to outside the gym as well. A lot of our members have become friends and spend time together even when they’re not working out. We’re like a family.
Not exactly this, no. I had been involved in CrossFit for several years and was about to complete my undergraduate degree at the time when my girlfriend (now wife) and best friend (now business partner) were moving to Southern California. I decided to join them and the rest is sort of history.
Although I never really had an interest in owning a business, so I’ve really had to cultivate the “owner” side of things in addition to the hands on coaching and training. A lot of learning!
My first job was when I was 13—I was a referee for soccer games. My most memorable job, however, was working at a veterinary hospital doing every type of grunt work job that needed to be done. Let’s just say I picked up a lot of poop (among other things)!
Do your homework ahead of time! Have a clear vision and a defined strategy for what you want to do. Know your competitors and what is most important to you to achieve within the business.
Oddly enough, it’s not working out. I don’t have a lot of free time but I am trying to make it more of a priority so I can have a better balance. I spend time with my wife and often try to think about the business in different ways so that I can work on it rather than just in it.
The next few questions are a series of rapid fire, don’t-think-too-much, one-word responses to see how people think on their feet. They usually provide some pretty interesting insight!
Being out of alignment with what you say; not following through.
This is it—I’m doing it now!
821 Academy Drive
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Do you work for, or own a business in Solana Beach, Leucadia, or Carlsbad? Contact us to set up your own interview and feature!